Environmentally and Economically Sustainable Carbon Nanotube Manufacturing

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) consist of carbon atoms arranged into hollow cylinders with high length-to-diameter ratios. This “nanotube” geometry gives CNTs several unique properties and therefore widely applicable to the structural, electrical, optical, and energy fields. However, as their demand has increased over the past several decades, we must be concerned with the potential environmental impacts associated with CNT production. How to environmentally sustainable produce CNT is a huge issue facing by the CNT manufacturer. 

Study

Detailed understanding the chemical process in the CNT manufacturing is our first step. Through chemical analytical tools in our lab, we could understand the bond-building steps in nanocarbon formation. With our specially designed reactors, we can deliver trace amounts of any gas and study the role of each gas in nanocarbon formation. By correlating each intermediate concentration with the CNT properties, we can determine the most efficient and direct pathway to form CNTs. We propose that by intentionally delivering only the necessary reactants for CNT production, we can reduce the formation of the unwanted environmental pollutants, reduce the energetic costs of the CNT synthesis, and simultaneously improve the quality of the CNT.

Impact

Understanding the mechanism of CNT formation on the molecular level could lead to a CNT manufacturing market that will simultaneously improve production efficiency, CNT quality, and environmental sustainability. This successful experience could also be applied to other emerging nanomaterial productions and fabrications in future.


Publications 

Early Evaluation of Potential Environmental Impacts of Carbon Nanotube Synthesis by Chemical Vapor Deposition. Environ. Sci. Technol., 2009, 43(21), 8367-8373

Multiple Alkynes React with Ethylene To Enhance Carbon Nanotube Synthesis, Suggesting a Polymerization-like Formation Mechanism. ACS Nano, 2010, 4(12), 7185-7192